Stinging gas sends May Day protesters fleeing Oakland

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Hundreds of activists across the US joined the worldwide May Day protests, with Occupy Wall Street members in several cities leading demonstrations against major financial institutions.

In Oakland, California, stinging gas sent protesters fleeing a downtown intersection where they were demonstrating. It was unclear whether police fired the gas, but officers took four people into custody. Crowds had blocked intersections in the city and tried to force businesses to shut down for not observing calls for a 'general strike'.

The city has been the scene of some of the fiercest clashes between police and Occupy protesters in recent months. In New York, police in riot gear lined the front of a Bank of America, facing several dozen Occupy activists marching behind barricades.

"Bank of America. Bad for America!" they chanted. About 50 demonstrators in Chicago rallied outside another of the bank's branches. Across the world, protests drew tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets from the Philippines to Spain.

They demanded everything from wage increases to an end to austerity measures. Yesterday's US protests were the most visible organising effort by anti-Wall Street groups since Occupy encampments were dismantled last year. May Day protests have in recent years focused on immigrant rights.

From New York to San Francisco, organizers of the various demonstrations, strikes and acts of civil disobedience said they were not too concerned about muddling their messages. They noted that the movements have similar goals: jobs, fair wages and equality.

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